|French Premier Valls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel|
France has been struck very much at its heart by terrorism—jihadist terrorism and radical Islamism, because let us call things like they are.
Given this exceptional situation we wanted some exceptional answers. We want to act very fiercely and with a lot of determination and coherence, [but without] challenging the rule of law.
There are four to six million French citizens who are Muslims. How can Islam prove that it is compatible with our values? With equality of women? With the separation of church and state? Therefore you have to put a name on things. . . . If you only say Islam has nothing to do with that, people won’t believe you.Valls notes that peaceful Muslims are radical Islam’s “first victims,” alongside Copts and Yazidis. “We need to name this Islamofascism, because Islamic State is a form of totalitarianism, in their territory, in their ideology.”
Valls, 52, was born in Barcelona to Spanish and Swiss parents, became a French citizen at 20, and identifies as “fully French, passionately French.” His wife is the renowned violinist Anne Gravoin, a French Jew.
In France in the 1970s, Valls says a new type of Jew-hatred emerged among French elites, one that expressed itself primarily as hostility to Zionism and Israel, with “all the components of anti-Semitism, the old ones,” including a “plot”-based view of imagined Jewish conspiracies.
Step by step, [the elites’ antisemitism] followed a migration and impacted young people in the poor neighborhoods. [By] 2013 or 2014, you have people in the streets of Paris chanting “Death to the Jews!” And in all the attacks in Paris or the attacks in Copenhagen, targeting the Jews is really at the heart of their motivation.France’s social crisis is owed in part to the country’s economic failure. Growth is nonexistent. Unemployment remains above 10%. A quarter of French youth are unemployed. The most talented young French men and women are more likely to be working in Silicon Valley or London than in Paris. Foreign direct investment in France fell 94% over the past decade, thanks to the country’s high taxes, labyrinthine regulations and rigid labor-market rules.
With the old left incapable of addressing the economic problems that are largely its creation, Valls has emerged as a leader of the Socialists’ reform wing, emphasizing law and order, personal responsibility and free markets. Valls again:
For 30 years France got used to massive unemployment, to too-high public spending and to not undertaking courageous reforms. France must prove to itself and to the world that it is capable of reforming itself. I very much believe in the role of the individual, the responsibility of each individual and individual accomplishment. I don’t believe in egalitarianism. You have to support, including at school, each individual according to his potential. We have unemployment benefits that somehow sponsor unemployment[, when we instead should] sponsor going back to work.Valls’s government is cutting public spending by $56 billion and social taxes and fees on businesses by $45 billion over the next three years. It has introduced a law to privatize public assets, opened 37 regulated professions to greater competition and allowed shops to stay open 12 Sundays a year, up from 5. Valls took risks “because the French people were expecting it.” The government “never properly explained” why reforms were needed, but “the French people are much more in favor of reforms than the elite.”
The European Union, he says, is “an unbelievable project.” From a historical perspective, he explains, the cooperation of so many disparate countries after centuries marked by antagonism together is “outstanding.” Against current threats, “the only question for Europe is: how not to step out of history. And the terrorist attacks are a reminder of why Europe can’t be selfish and inward looking, [it must] face up to its responsibilities on the world stage.”